Christmas party funding for Mid Ulster pensioners ‘a disgrace’

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Mid Ulster Council’s maximum grant of £100 for senior citizens Christmas parties has been described as a “total disgrace” by a former chairman of Magherafelt District Council.

Bertie Montgomery, who is secretary of Tobermore Community Project, said he doubted whether they would be able to run their Christmas dinner for local senior citizens.

“If this is all the Mid Ulster Council think of its senior citizens then I think it’s a complete disgrace,” he told the Mail.

“In previous years Magherafelt District Council provided a grant of £500 to each of the community groups in the area which were planning to hold a dinner for senior citizens.

“I’m not sure what the thinking is behind this but certainly you would not be able to hold much of a dinner for a £100.”

At least a dozen community groups in towns and villages across south Derry will be impacted by the reduction in the grant which it is understood came out of Magherafelt District Council’s community relations allocation.

The Christmas dinner in Tobermore normally attracts 150 pensioners from the surrounding area.

DUP Councillor Anne Forde said it was “hardly worth” filling out the application form for the grant. “I would be prepared to make a £100 donation myself,” she said. Cllr Forde said she planned to raise the matter with the council’s chief executive.

A council spokesperson yesterday said: “The Christmas fund is a new funding stream and is intended to provide small grants of up to £100 to assist groups to hold Christmas dinners or parties for vulnerable adults, including older people and people with disabilities.

“The former Magherafelt Council’s funding was for a range of Christmas-related activities, including lighting and festive events. Mid Ulster District Council’s grants programme was open for applications earlier this year, including for events and festivals, and more than £400K was awarded.”